The Fraser Valley Bandits dreams of reaching the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s championship game for the second year in a row ended abruptly off the fingers of guard Kenny Manigault in Friday’s semifinal in Edmonton.
After trailing most of the game, the Bandits battled back in the Elam Ending finale of the game and led 82-81. With a target score of 84, the Fraser Valley needed just one measly field goal to qualify for the big game.
But Manigault missed a lay-up and the Niagara River Lions stormed downcourt, moments later Phil Scrubb nailed a dagger-three to the heart of the Bandits and it was game over.
Niagara scored the 84-82 win and will now take on the winner of Friday night’s game between the Edmonton Stingers and the Ottawa Blackjacks.
The Bandits did themselves no favours in the first quarter, falling behind 23-13. But the team refused to give up and continued to chip away at Niagara’s lead. The Bandits largest lead was one point - that moment in the Elam Ending when they were up 82-81 and in the middle of the third when they were up 49-48.
Bandits guard Alex Campbell had a strong game, collecting a team-high 19 points to go with three rebounds and two assists. Manigault contributed with 18 points and seven assists. CEBL defensive player of the year Brandon Gilbeck struggled from the field for most of the game, but did step up offensively in the Elam Ending. Gilbeck had an impressive 14 rebounds, but had just nine points off of 11 shots. Shaquille Keith had a solid game with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Keith was also a +10 on the floor.
Foul trouble was an issue for the Bandits, as Ryan Ejim picked up three fouls early and finished with four. Keith (four), Duvivier (three) and Manigault (three) also received the referee’s wrath.
Niagara’s Javin Delaurier led all players with 20 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
The CBC broadcasters also indicated this game will now go down as the final one in the career for Bandits forward Levon Kendall, who told broadcasters he will retire at the end of the season. The 37-year-old has had a storied professional career with stops in Greece, Germany and Spain. He also represented Canada on the international stage and won three B.C. high school basketball championships.